Sarpang police has detained a 46-year-old non-commissioned officer (NCO) of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) from Wing IX in Pelrithang, Gelephu, for an alleged rape of a nine-year-old student.

An RBA official said that the soldier was court-martialed as soon as they learnt about the case. He said the accused was then handed over to police. “Besides the police charges, RBA will also file a case against him for breaching the military code of conduct and for unbecoming of a soldier.”

The official added that according to the RBA Act, the accused would be liable for a separate punishment besides the punishment rendered by the court.

The soldier, who is a father of three, was arrested on May 24. Police officials said he has confessed to the crime but told police that he did not penetrate.

The incident happened on May 12, when the girl went with her mother to the farm.

The girl’s mother (name withheld to protect the identity of the minor) said she took her daughter with her around 3pm when she went to dig holes to plant areca nut saplings.

“My daughter was playing around and I was working on the farm,” she said. “I didn’t see my daughter after some time but assumed she was playing with her friends.”

She said her daughter came home around 7pm and slept after eating some food. “From the next day onwards, she lost her appetite and she was drowsy throughout. She also could not walk properly and refused to speak a word.”

The mother said that when she insisted, her daughter said she has pain in her genitals. “I checked and found it swollen, wounded and full of discharge.”

She said she cleaned it with a warm salt solution and applied herbal medicines. “I thought it was an infection.”

When the daughter could not walk to school, which is about 30 minutes walk away, the parents sought leave from the school.

“I cleaned it regularly but when it did not heal, I decided to take her to the hospital,” the mother said. “But before going to the hospital, I asked my daughter if she is hiding anything from me and that was when she confided that she was raped when we had gone to the farm the other day.”

She said her daughter told her that when she was busy in the farm, a man, wearing shorts and a t-shirt held her by the hand and took her towards the bush below the farm, covered her mouth with his hand and raped her.

“My daughter said the man left her there and went straight inside the RBA outpost gate in Dekiling,” the mother said.  “I cried a lot. She is a baby, just nine years old.”

The girl said she could not tell her mother, fearing that she would scold her. The mother rushed her to the hospital. “Hospital officials told me that she was raped,” the mother said.

However, when Kuensel inquired the hospital, the gynaecologist said he could not find any signs of penetration such as tears and that the hymen was intact. The medical superintendent said she was brought to the hospital too late.

According to the forensic report submitted to Sarpang police, although the hospital could not find any signs of penetration, the minor was detected with genital herpes.

Genital herpes is a disease that is transmitted, in most cases, through sexual contact and is detected by physical examination.

“The medical report could not confirm or exclude having non-penetrating sex due to time lapse,” Sarpang police said.

Sarpang police said they are waiting for a medical report to confirm if the girl contacted the disease from the accused.

Meanwhile, the mother said the wounds are healing and her daughter has started attending school. “But to go to her school, she has to walk past the RBA outpost and she fears walking that way. She is traumatised even in her sleep.”

The girl stays with her parents, who are farmers.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Gelephu